Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Alpha-bet : the Best Bet

It's time, internet and fellow booksellers, for me to confess something: I have the alphabet stuck in my head most of the time. Anyone else? No, really? I didn't think so. But after a day of shelving books, maintaining a section in detail, or scanning the shelves in a frantic attempt to find an author with an ambiguously hyphenated last name, it just seeps in there, a constant stream of relating one letter to what must come before or after it.

This may effect me more than most, due to a condition remarked upon by all who know me called an Uncannily Precise Recollection of Every Sesame Street Routine Aired Between 1985 and 1991. I don't know why I developed this, but as evidence I recently identified a co-worker's old favorite short based only on her vague description of a particular rain boot. I think that those fragile sponge-y years during which public broadcasting was my only televised input used up my entire memorization capacity, and while my relationship with subsequent learning suffered for it, it has the lovely benefit of providing many different tunes for remembering where letters go while I'm shelving books at Green Apple.

Long story short, this post is dedicated to the alphabet, and this month is dedicated to poetry, and so I give you this:

Ron Silliman's The Alphabet is a wonderful example of how the simplest units of our strange and baffling language can be stranger and baffling-er than you ever thought possible. At a whopping 1,054 pages of poetry and narrative verse, it's a gorgeous beast of a thing, a compilation of twenty six smaller volumes published over the years in various journals and magazines, each dedicated to a letter of the alphabet. It's no simple read, best suited to live on your bedside table for a while be chiseled at gradually, but there are lines in there that will stop you cold and make you want to go back, understand how you got there and figure out where the heck you're going. So if you're looking to draw out National Poetry Month into several months, or if you really have absolutely nothing to do until May, then this book is the perfect celebration of all that poetry can do and undo.

But if you need a simpler alphabet story, or perhaps you need help navigating Green Apple's (ahem) flawlessly alphabetized shelves, allow me to share my favorite for making the process a little more wonderful, albeit with questionable depictions of traditional African garb. A, Amazing.

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